Thursday, June 28, 2007

Life and love have left you shafted, and on top of that, ha ha, you just got drafted!

So, for those of you who haven't been following the NBA Draft lead-up as obsessively as I have (which would probably be all of you), here are the top storylines to keep an eye on tonight:

1. Greg Oden. He's big. He's good. The Portland Trail Blazers have reportedly already decided to take the Ohio State center No. 1 overall, which basically assures them an NBA title sometime in the near future. He's such a big deal, there are two subplots that go along with him:
1A. Whether the Blazers can work out a deal to pair him with Mike Conley, who's been Oden's teammate since middle school. Conley might just be the third best player in the draft, so this could be difficult. But, Conley's dad (who's also named Mike Conley, by the way) is the agent for both his son and Oden, and let us not forget who powerful agents are in modern professional sports.
1B. Oden is supposed to be 19, but looks like he's at least in his late 30s. No kidding. The only way this guy's career is derailed is if he has to retire after his second season because he starts running the floor like the Charlotte Hornets version of Robert Parish.

2. Kevin Durant. He's an explosive, athletic scoring wing from Texas who's drawing comparisons to the greats. However, as great as he is, he'll never be greater than Oden, who, by the way, is about half a foot taller than he is. This is not to say that the Sonics, who will be the team taking him unless there is some kind of weird trade or apocalypse between now and 8 o'clock tonight, can't win a title with him. It's just that teams with great low-post players, like Oden, win more titles than teams with great players at other positions, like Durant, with the lone exception being Michael Jordan's Bulls. Unless Kevin Durant is Michael Jordan (he's not), he is not as good a pick as Oden. No matter how many times Jerry Boggs tries to argue this point with me. Eight of the last nine NBA champs have had either Duncan or Shaq. Enough said.

3. Wither Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett? Both players face the prospect of playing the rest of their primes with shitty teams (which strengthens my big-over-small argument, since both guys are primarily wing players). Kobe is doing everything humanly possible to force the Lakers to trade him, and the T'Wolves are doing everything they can to trade KG before his head literally explodes. Sadly, it appears unlikely either will be traded tonight, despite a flurry of rumors the past two weeks. But we, Kobe, KG and the Phoenix Suns can dream.
4. Yi Jianlian. A 7-foot Chinese center who no one has seen play, who has taken to sunglasses in public at all times, who the Chinese government doesn't want playing for teams in markets without a lot of Asians, and who owners are slavering over because of his ability to let them tap into the Chinese consumer market. If the country weren't already fundamentally fucked up by Iraq, I'd be seriously worried about the potential for an international incident here. The owners of the Hawks, who own the third pick, are reportedly smitten with Yi's economic potential, which means the hopes of American basketball fans in Georgia who want to see a winning basketball team anytime soon may once more be relegated to VHS tapes of Dominique-era TBS broadcasts. (Sigh. Sometimes, I miss Skip Caray as a basketball announcer.)

5. Bill Simmons' NBA Draft Diary. I'll be monitoring this all night long to see if Bill suddenly disappears midway through and goes off to hunt and kill Danny Ainge. If the Celtics wind up taking Yi, the odds are in favor of this actually happening.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bruce Willis dive-bombs ESPN's credibility

Out of all the things that make me queasy about this whole idea of a SportsCenter exclusively sponsored by Die Hard, here's one that I think might get overlooked, but speaks to a key issue at hand: the voiceover referring to "This EPISODE of SportsCenter." Not this edition of SportsCenter. Not this installment of SportsCenter. Not this evening's SportsCenter nor even simply this SportsCenter. Usually, the word episode describes a sitcom or a crime drama, a television program that is meant first and foremost to entertain. News and information programs aren't referred to in this manner, and so it seems like an indication that the primary purpose of SportsCenter is not to inform, but to entertain, which comes as no great shock.

But the show does attempt to retain some level of journalistic credibility in accurately reporting scores of games and the stories involving the athletes who play them. The show occasionally takes on larger issues, such as race, economics, and, as in tonight's "episode," the claims of retired NFL players that they are not fairly compensated for the damage to their health suffered while playing the game.

If SportsCenter wishes to cover these stories with a fair-minded and ethical approach, may I suggest they make more of an effort to assure viewers the information they're getting has not been pre-screened by movie producers who want to make sure it jibes with the tone of their promotional material.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pedro's Little Friend

It seems someone got duped into thinking they were Pedro Martinez's girlfriend by an imposter. Which leaves me thinking, since people often say I resemble Kurt Cobain, do you think I could convince this woman that I'm the late Nirvana lead singer come back to life? And get her to send me money on the pretense that, say, it's hard for dead people to find work or something?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Romanowski spreads himself to play gay cowboy, help people

So ex-NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski showed up on ESPNews Saturday, and had some interesting revelations.

Romanowski: "... I have a movie coming out here fairly soon here called 'Wiener'"

ESPNews Anchor: "Wiener?"

Romanowski: "Where I play a gay cowboy."

ESPNews Anchor: "Romo!"

Romanowski: "I had to spread myself a little bit."

I think what Romanowski meant to say is that he was stretching himself, and not spreading himself, as an actor. But Freudian slips can be forgiven. What Hollywood types in particular tend to be less than forgiving about is when you screw up the title of the film you're in. According to The Internet Movie Database, the title of the film is "Wieners," not "Wiener."

Maybe Romanowski should be taking some ginkgo biloba. After all, he's no stranger to daily supplements, and perhaps we all stand to benefit from his pill popping. Romanowski says to ESPNews, "I'm really into supplementation. I'm into helping people."

So I guess that makes Barry Bonds the new Mother Theresa.

R.I.P. Rod Beck

ESPN news is reporting that former Major League reliever Rod Beck has died at age 38. Sad news. I liked the guy, and he had one of the most impressive mullets known to man.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I have way too many scruples for modern romance

I don't think we're overloading our youth with far too many organized extra-curricular activities, no. Not when a 40-year-old high school girls track coach got married to one of his 16-year-old athletes.

Only rheumatism can derail them now

Jamie Moyer pitched six scoreless innings as the Phillies shut out the Cardinals 6-0 last night, and the Phillies improved to 9-1 when Moyer pitches following a loss.

That's right, kids ... the Phillies have a 44-year-old stopper. Heaven help them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gandhi had it better

Why couldn't I have been born and raised in Punjab? At the very least, I would have had my pick of call center jobs and inventive, kama sutra-style sex with my arranged-marriage wife every night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

So did you happen to catch the College World Series game between UC-Irvine and Arizona State Tuesday night? In case the NCAA's ban on live blogging forced you to miss it, the Anteaters won in 8-7 in an exciting 10-inning game, but the real thrill, as far as I was concerned, was seeing Phillies third-round draft choice Matt Spencer play for the Sun Devils. Not only was he someone on whom my favorite team invested a high draft pick, but he's also someone I covered, rather intensely, for one year while he was in high school and I was a sports writer in Morristown. I followed his senior season, during which he signed with North Carolina (with whom he appeared in last year's CWS before transferring), pitched a no-hitter against his crosstown rival, and had, if I recall correctly, 17 home runs in about 30 games. Plus he did all this left-handed, which is pretty impressive. And then there was the time I covered the party he had at his dad's house when he signed with North Carolina. Which if I recall was actually the first time I met him. The highlight of the affair, of course, was talking to Spencer's dad about my high school history teacher. Don't ask me how we got on that subject, but apparently the two of them go way back.

Anyway, Spencer was 0-for-5 in his team's loss Tuesday, but cheer up ... Pat Burrell probably wouldn't have done any better. I, for one, wouldn't mind Spencer taking Burrell's place in left field at Citizen's Bank Park in a few years. That probably means seeing him in a Clearwater Threshers uniform first, in which case tickets behind the vistors dugout at Hammond Stadium the next time Clearwater's in town are definitely in order.
America, like any good capitalist nation worth its salt, is always full of people trying to sell you something. Anything can be bought and sold in this, the world's great global marketplace. And most people are willing buyers. People will even buy a new soul, if you can convince them the one they have is outmoded. And people are always in the market for shit to believe in. And why wouldn't they be? For most people, the realization that they're merely a pawn in someone else's twisted Monopoly game is too grim. They'd get left behind the herd if they so much as took a second to pause, and be forced to fend for themselves. And why forge your own path if there's already one made for you, even if it leads straight to the slaughter? To those of us daring enough to roam in the wilderness, the price is high ... higher than any of us could ever have imagined. Some can't handle it and go crazy ... well, shit, we're all crazy ... but there's no turning back now. It's a chance to start over again, which is just what those of us wiped out by the myth of The American Dream need. The American Dream was just some rapist's wet nightmare, and as children we were swaddled in the semed-encrusted bedsheets of its wake. So who are we? Are we the rapists? The victims? The love children? We who have run off on our own into the jungle know the answer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Cycle of Poverty Bicycle Race

The economy, for the vast majority of Americans, has gone completely into the shitter. That, in and of itself, is not news, at least not to anyone who's actually been paying attention (which, sadly, is less than a vast majority of Americans). But, it is a monumental achievement of the Reagan-Bush era, now more than a quarter-century old, to have pretty much completely fucked millions of people by locking them into a cycle of poverty. And every monumental achievement, no matter how unfortunate, deserves a celebration.
I have a great idea for a fitting tribute. Let's have an annual Cycle of Poverty Bicycle Race. Run it on some godforsaken Kentucky mountainside, so it can be all downhill, of course, and so that there will be steep cliffs on either side with no safety net - just like the economic fate of so many Americans. Those riders who fall off the cliffs will be transported via ambulance to the nearest emergency room, which will, upon learning they have no health insurance, refuse them service, so as to maximize the profits of the parent health corporation. Those who successfully navigate the course will receive great prizes ... I'm thinking gift certificates to Wal-Mart and McDonald's, pre-approved credit card offers which include no payments for six months, then a 14-day billing cycle with a 47 percent APR, stacks and stacks of "Self-Help" books, and maybe even a nice chunk of real estate between an abandoned coal mine and a contaminated creek somewhere in Harlan County. The first to cross the finish line wins the grand prize ... an immediate and thorough drug and steroid test, followed by a false positive result that will likely get them fired from their job, force them to pursue costly litigation and haunt their reputation for the rest of their days. The day will conclude with a reading of selected passages from the autobiographies of Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch and Reagan's personal diaries.
This will no doubt be a hoot and a great boon to all of us who support red-blooded Americanism. I'll go so far as to propose this happens every year on July 4. And what better year to start than next year, the election year that will hopefully prove to be the ultimate test of the Reagan-Bush policies. Let's show these bastards what the last 25 years have really been about! Let's start organizing this immediately ... get me Colleen on the phone at once!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Can you believe this shit?

So FEMA says it goofed up and gave victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma $485 million more than they meant to. Considering FEMA appeared as though it was content to sit back and watch New Orleans sink into oblivion, I'd say anyone getting anything more than FEMA intended to give them is a good thing. Can you imagine the gall it takes to collect on this shit? Imagine if you were somebody who spent the day after the levees broke on top of your roof with a sign pleading for help, and you had to take a call like this ...

Destitute person: Hello?
FEMA caller: Yes ... hi, my name is David Thompkins, calling from the FEMA Collections Department ...
Destitute person: Yes! Hi! Boy, am I glad to finally hear from you! It took you a while!
FEMA caller: Yes, er ... ah ... anyway, you did receive a check for about $2,000 for repairs to your home about a month ago, yes?
Destitute person: That's right. A month ago. 20 months after the storm. Right.
FEMA caller: Well, um ... we sent you the wrong amount.
Destitute person: Oh, well you know, that's what I thought, since $2,000 only covers about half of the home repairs, and I waited almost two years, so ...
FEMA caller: Ah, actually ... we were only supposed to send you $500.
Destitute person: What?
FEMA caller: Yes, $500.
Destitute person: (Pause) That would be great if this were 1830.
FEMA caller: So we need the $1,500 back from you, as soon as possible.
Destitute person: Eat shit!
FEMA caller: That ... that might actually be a good cost-cutting move for you, sir.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If last night's 75-72 NBA Finals game has taught us anything, it's that the NBA needs to shorten its 24-second shot clock. Preferrably to 14 seconds.
In the past five years, as the NBA has implemented multiple rules changes designed to encourage scoring, I've always been in favor of shortening the shot clock as the single most simple and effective solution. And the league instead insists on tinkering with hand-checking and zone defense. Those moves have brought about a slight uptick in leaguewide scoring and encouraged teams like the Phoenix Suns, who employ a fast-break style of play, but the fact remains that the most successful teams are still those who slow the game down to play to their half-court strengths, a la San Antonio and Cleveland.
If you tighten the time frame these teams have to execute their half-court sets, however, you limit their effectiveness and play into the hands of the more fast-paced clubs who rarely use the whole 24-second clock anyway. When you look at games from 20 or 25 years ago, teams rarely walked the ball up the floor and stood around, and you rarely saw teams pass the ball from perimeter player to perimeter player five or six times until somebody either drove the lane or took a shot, which is what so many teams do now.
A consistent aim of the defensive-minded coaches who implemented the current slow-it-down mode of play is to limit the number of possessions each team has in the game. The easiest way to counteract this strategy, from a rule-making perspective, is to necessarily increase the minimum number of possessions per game by shortening the shot clock. When it was invented in the mid 1950s, Syracuse Nationals executive Danny Biasone simply divided the average number of possessions by the 48-minute length of games, which came out to 24 seconds. Considering its aim was to increase scoring, instead of merely maintain the status quo, Biasone would have been wise to use a number greater than the average number of possessions.
But the advent of the shot clock did prevent teams and coaches from limiting possessions any further, and in fact coincided with the rise of the Celtics dynasty, which was predicated on the fast break. Scoring surged for three decades before defensive-minded coaches caught up.
And now that they have, it's time for another adjustment. It's time the NBA did for offenses what Biasone should have done more than fifty years ago, and make time short.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Is there no end to this shit? Am I going to have to shoot my way out or what? When all the world's a stage, nobody's there to take the tickets.